Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling is a lot of things to a lot of people.
To me it is a promotion that shuns a desire to have typical good matches, instead, it focuses on storytelling and the emotion that can be brought out through pro wrestling. Namely, the desire to see your favorite win. TJPW is a vast company filled with a variety of characters and personalities, the goal is for the viewer to attach themself to their favorites and follow their journeys, rooting for their successes no matter how big or small. It’s why there are no heels in TJPW, there are no “sides” to pick, it’s just about finding the one that speaks to you and basing your interest around that.
At the heart of all of this is Miyu Yamashita.
The ace of TJPW, Miyu Yamashita is an unbeatable figure akin to a well-booked version of Brock Lesnar, or for Joshi historians out there, Shinobu Kandori. Yamashita is the one constant in TJPW, she is everyone’s mountain to climb, the peak that everyone in the company strives for. As she nears 1,000 combined days as the top champion her spell of dominance is unparalleled in the world of Joshi. Simply put, to beat Miyu Yamashita is the ultimate goal in Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, to do so in a title match is an aim so lofty that most don’t even dare. For non-Joshi fans, it is the equivalent of defeating the Chicago Bulls in the 90s, the Miami Heat in the early 2010s, or prime Manchester United. Sure, you may beat them on an off night during the season, but they were still likely to blow you away when the spotlight was on in the big games. That, that is the charm of Miyu Yamashita and why she is consistently putting on the best matches in TJPW.
Miyu Yamashita is perfect.
She is ice-cold, she is ruthless, she is precise, she radiates confidence. But most important of all, Miyu Yamashita is beatable. Behind the mega camp nickname and the obvious intimidation when standing across from her there is a wrestler that CAN and HAS been beaten. We’ve seen it before, she is a three-time Princess of Princess Champion, but you know what that means? She has been beaten for it twice. What makes Miyu Yamashita so interesting is the same thing that makes real-life sports interesting, the favorite will eventually lose, and when that loss comes at the hands of your favorite team? Nothing can ever compare. Credit must go to TJPW here because they have managed to craft a top star that could believably decimate the entire roster without making her completely infallible. She makes mistakes and it’s up to her opponent to rise to the occasion and wrestle the perfect match to defeat her. The cycle of being a TJPW fan is believing that each new challenger could be the one to end Miyu’s reign only to see her come in clutch and turn them away in a typical fashion. And yet, after all these years I still fill myself with hope..surely THIS TIME my favorite will win, she has to! Spoiler alert: they never do. Much like rooting for a mid-level sports team, it is a repetitive, yet addicting cycle, we psych ourselves up to believe that our dreams can come true this time only to slowly realize that they won’t. And deep down we KNOW they won’t but it never stops us from repeating the cycle in the new season. To me, this is the beauty of what TJPW has achieved with Miyu Yamashita. However, like any good champion, she needs the best challengers to draw out the most drama. Enter, Mizuki.
The Perfect Challenger
Mizuki is not a TJPW trainee, in fact, she wasn’t even an official member of the roster until November 2020. Despite this, the LLPW-X graduate has been active in TJPW for many years now as a freelancer. During this time Mizuki has always been presented as a strong presence on the roster. You knew she would never really win the big one, but she could beat anyone on any given day. This was due to her inherent talent and the gap between her and most of the TJPW roster. While TJPW isn’t necessarily a “workrate” company, Mizuki came from LLPW-X and trained under Joshi legends meaning she was a strong wrestler almost from the word go. She quickly became a favorite of mine in the company due to her exciting offense and consistent output in the ring. When Mizuki joined TJPW as a roster member I began to believe that she would be holding the Princess of Princess title sooner rather than later, in fact, I had myself convinced that she would be the one to dethrone Miyu Yamashita. And those dastardly folks in TJPW played into my hopes. In the Quarter Finals of the Tokyo Princess Cup 2021, Mizuki beat Miyu Yamashita. This wasn’t presented as a typical “surprise upset” but as Miyu falling to one of TJPW’s top names. Yamashita, alongside Maki Itoh, had a chance to avenge this loss in November when they challenged Mizuki and Yuka Sakazaki for the tag team championships. Once again, Mizuki came out on the winning side, even getting the win for her team. When Mizuki challenged Miyu after that match it felt like Yamashita’s days as champion were numbered. Mizuki had gotten the advantage over Miyu not once, but twice, in the space of a few months. In fact, Miyu had not beaten Mizuki one on one since June of 2017. Going into January 4th Mizuki had all the momentum in the world on her side and it truly felt like she would be the one to defeat the surging mega camp.
Mizuki vs. Miyu Yamashita had all the makings of a TJPW classic.
Mizuki came in with all the momentum in the world while Yamashita looked vulnerable for the first time in a long while. Not only that but Yamashita now had a challenger who could match her skills-wise in the ring. From the very beginning, they held nothing back with Yamashita peppering in her strikes early with vigor while Mizuki’s agility was keeping Yamashita’s hands full. The pace of the match was much quicker than Yamashita is used to but they managed to keep the drama at a high throughout. This match felt different than Yamashita’s other matches, the parity in skill between the two made it into a real clash of titans instead of the usual one-sided attempts to survive that we see in Yamashita’s title matches. Mizuki wrestled well, really well in fact, but as the match wore on Yamashita did what she so often does and unloaded her arsenal of killer moves. And just like that, I was at the latter end of the cycle, it slowly set in that Mizuki wasn’t the one, that Yamashita would knock her head off and hold the title aloft to close the show. And like always, I am ok with that. Because in two months’ time I will do this all again and root for Shoko Nakajima at Sumo Hall until Miyu roundhouse kicks her head into the fourth row.
Mizuki vs. Miyu Yamashita was the perfect representation of what TJPW can be.
Miyu Yamashita provided the perfect base as the ace with a chink in her armor, Mizuki was the challenger riding a wave of momentum and fan support into battle, and the match itself was one of the most skillful displays that TJPW has ever played host to. I know TJPW is not for everyone, and sometimes it’s not even for me. But in this match? With this pairing? I finally understood the full potential of this promotion.
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